What Everyone Should Know About Marriage & Intimate Relationships

All relationships evolve over time. There are natural developmental stages of marriage and family that every couple goes through from the beginning to the end.  Reorganization of the spousal relationship at each stage is unavoidable.  Some couples reorganize in a healthy way, while others reorganize in an unhealthy way. It is how a couple reorganizes that determines the happiness and quality of the relationship.

You can’t know for sure what is going to happen in life.  What you can know is how and why relationships change over time.  This kind of knowledge is powerful and with it you can prepare yourself.  With this knowledge it is possible to avoid some problems altogether and reduce the severity of others.  You have a better chance creating a relationship that really works for you and your partner.

A long-term relationship is like white water rafting. Sometimes the water
is calm but when the rapids begin, knowing what obstacles lie ahead
can help you safely navigate through them.

What follows below is an outline of the 12 stages of change that intimate relationships go through.

1: COURTSHIP: Two single people become a couple (not yet living together).  They lose their single identity as others start to perceive them as unit.

2: LIVING TOGETHER:  A couple moves in together but does not marry.

3 MARRIAGE: The couple marries.  (Stages 2 and 3 may happen simultaneously).  In the first year of living together the couple develop dynamics between them that will probably last for the rest of their lives.

4: FAMILY: The couple’s first child is born.

When a couple has their first child there is a dramatic change in their relationship. The first child changes the husband and wife into parents.  This is a new role that neither has dealt with previously.  It takes some getting used to.  When subsequent children come along the couple are already parents.  There is change but not nearly as much.

Many babies die in infancy.  Mothers tend to make the survival of their infants a priority and put their own lives on hold.

5:  FIRST CHILD ENTERS SCHOOL:

The family is the child’s first world.  School exposes children to the ‘world at large’ and they bring those influences back to the family.  The couple has to deal with the influences from the larger world and it is how they do that that counts.

For the children life at school confirms or disconfirms the child’s view of life established at home.  This also impacts upon Mom and Dad.

6: LAST CHILD ENTERS SCHOOL: Mother’s life comes off hold.  (For family with one child, stages 5 and 6 occur simultaneously.)  When children reach ages 5-6 they are more likely to survive. Mother’s life is freed up now to do more of what she wants or needs to do.

7: FIRST CHILD ENTERS PUBERTY: This marks the beginning of a separation between adolescents and parents.  Parents are united as a team or divided by their differences at this stage.

It’s easier to separate from the first child when there are one or more children still at home.

8: LAST CHILD ENTERS PUBERTY: Couple realizes there soon will be no more children at home. They begin to reorganize to become a couple alone again.  (For family with one child, stages 7 and 8 occur simultaneously.)

9: FIRST CHILD LEAVES HOME: The couple struggles to allow their child to come into his or her own as a separate adult. Usually one holds on more than the other which causes friction.  Parents’ developmental task is to let go of their children.  Children’s developmental task is to let go of their parents.  Later, they reconnect adult to adult.

10: LAST CHILD LEAVES HOME: The couple become a couple alone again, but now with independent, adult children. (For family with one child, stages 9 and 10 occur simultaneously.)

11: BECOMING GRANDPARENTS: The first grandchild provides a renewed connection between parents and adult children.  As grandparents, the couple has a new identity that they must organize around.

12: RETIREMENT: One or both spouses retire and the couple must reorganize around how and when they spend time together.  If they both retire they must deal with greater amounts of time spent together.

THE RELATIONSHIP ENDS WHEN ONE SPOUSE DIES: The memories of being in the relationship endure until the death of the other spouse, regardless of whether the relationship was happy or unhappy. Surviving spouse may or may not begin a new relationship.  When a new relationship begins the cycle begins again.

In depth Stages in Intimate Relationships

Stage 1:  COURTSHIP: Two single people become a couple (but don’t yet live together).

Each partner has to adapt to being in a couple relationship by changing his or her lifestyle.  They commit themselves to each other, agree to be monogamous and agree to no longer seek out new love interests.  They begin to develop patterns of behavior that determine how the relationship is going to be.  At this point, each partner is still wooing the other and presenting their best side.  In courtship, the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions may be anywhere from 20 – 50 to 1.

When a person is single, they behave differently than when they become part of a couple.  Healthy people in a couple relationship are no longer emotionally available to other romantic attentions.  Partners focus their attention on each other to the exclusion of others people.  They invest themselves emotionally, physically and financially in their relationship.  They do activities together.  The outside world treat them as a couple rather than two single people dating.  They confer with each other about how to spend time together and individually.  They figure out how to spend holidays and special occasions together.  People in a couple relationship continue to learn the intricacies of each other’s world: extended family, friends, work, recreational interests, as well as, hopes and dreams.

Jay and Sylvia met on an Internet dating site.  At first, they talked to each other anonymously through the site.  Eventually, they met and started dating.  Jay said he had an instant attraction to Sylvia when they met; her smile dazzled him.  It reminded him of his favorite grandmother who had a smile just as captivating.  When they met, Sylvia immediately felt comfortable with Jay.  She felt like she could be herself with him.  Two months later they agreed to date each other exclusively.  Each took their profiles off the dating sites.  Each agreed to date only each other and started introducing each other to their families, friends and others.

The Courtship stage can become more complicated when partners bring children into a new relationship, as well as on-going contact with ex-partners.

Stage 2:  LIVING TOGETHER: The couple moves in together but does not marry.

In a couple relationship, each member wants to love and be loved.  One demonstration of love is a desire to share their lives in a deeper way by living together, married or not married.  Some couples declare their commitment to each other by getting engaged during this time.

During the first year of living together, the couple defines, both consciously and unconsciously, how they are going to interact with each other. Each behaves in ways that attempt to get his/her own needs met.  They develop rituals and ways of being in the relationship that are idiosyncratic to them as a couple.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, for intimate partners who live together to hide all aspects of themselves from each other.  (Occasionally, a partner will have a secret life, but this is rare.) Problematic differences that were not revealed in courtship, or were ignored, now come to the foreground and require attention.  The number of positive interactions decreases and the number of negative interactions increases.  A happy marriage has 5 positive interactions to every negative interaction.

Creating a new home together is a big change.  The keys to reorganization in Stage 2  is comfort, safety and belonging. Each person wants and needs to feel comfortable with the new living arrangements.  Each wants and needs to feel like they can be fully themselves and still be loved by their partners.  Each wants and needs to feel they belong to their partner.

There are many new issues to address: Household tasks: Who is going to cook? Take out the garbage? Clean the toilet? Choose the décor?  Social life: Who is going to do the planning and arranging?   Whose family and friends are they going to see and how often? Finances: Is the money going to be in separate pots or one pot?  Are expenses going to be shared 50-50 or in some other way?  Who is going to take responsibility for paying the bills?  Who is going to spend the money?  Sexual Intimacy: How often are they going to make love?  Who is going to initiate?  How are they going to handle their sexual differences?  Non-sexual Intimacy:  How does each handle different needs for emotional closeness and distance?  How affection is expressed, how much and in what settings?

Charlie and Dawn had each been married before and each had their own apartment.  After dating for a year, they decided Dawn would move into Charlie’s place and rent out hers.  When Dawn moved, in she put her belongings around Charlie’s belongings. After 18 months of living together, her doctor diagnosed Dawn with depression and referred her for counselling.  She did not know what was wrong because the relationship seemed OK.  They were not fighting.

Through counselling she discovered, she still felt the apartment was Charlie’s and she did not belong.  Not integrating their furniture and belongings indicated a larger problem of not integrating their lives emotionally.   After a brief separation, during which they had couples counselling and each had some individual counselling, they decided they still wanted to be together.  They learned to discuss their relationship in a whole new way that took them to a depth neither had ever experienced before.  Once they were reconnected emotionally and had developed a way to work out issues, each wanted to reinvest in the relationship.  They then made a plan that would result in each selling their own apartments and purchasing a larger apartment together.  Dawn’s life was no longer on hold.  Her depression lifted, even though it was going to take considerable time and effort to carry out their plan.

During the Living Together Stage, the number of positive interactions decreases and the number of negative interactions decreases.  Research shows healthy happy relationships maintain a ratio of 5 positive interactions to 1 negative.

Change is easiest during the first year of co-habitation and marriage because the patterns of interaction between the couple are not yet fully established.  In the first year, the couple is still in the bloom of love.  There is little hurt to overcome, and each is still highly motivated to make the relationship work.  People in a healthy relationship are interdependent.

(Significant) Stage 3: MARRIAGE: The couple gets married. (Stages 2 & 3 may happen simultaneously)

If a couple marries, regardless of when, there is an important shift in how the couple interacts with each other.  Why?  When people sign the legal document of marriage their expectations about marriage, both unconscious and conscious, come to the foreground.  We all have ideas and preconceived notions about what marriage is.  These come from our family of origin, as well as from watching and experiencing other marriages – those of our parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, siblings, neighbors and friends.  Our religious beliefs and cultural expectations heavily influence our concept of marriage.  Our expectations of marriage are influenced by what we’ve read, as well as TV, movie and celebrity marriages.  Living together is not married even though a couple lives and acts in a married manner.  For some couples, the reorganization from living together to being and feeling married is achieved easily.  For others, the shift is so great that sometimes after years of living together they separate and divorce after only a few months of marriage.  The USA National Center for Health Statistic states that unmarried cohabitations are less stable than marriages.

Julie and Sam had been contentedly living together for five years.  They had settled into a way of living their lives that suited them.  July was reluctant to get married until they decided to start a family.  Shortly after they married Julie started to feel trapped in the relationship even though she was not even pregnant.  It was nothing she could explain because their lives were the same.  She grew up in a family in which her father felt trapped in the marriage and stayed for the children’s sake.  On some level, Julie felt like she suddenly had a ball and chain around her ankle.  She began to stay away from home for longer periods of time without really knowing why and by resisting her husband attentions and affection.  She was scared her marriage would be a repeat of her father and mother’s.  Ultimately, by talking through her fears with her husband she was able to revise her unconscious belief that marriage was a prison. Their marriage became stronger and more satisfying as a result.

(SIGNIFICANT) Stage 4: FAMILY: Couple becomes a family.

Research shows the stage of having babies and preschoolers is the most difficult stage of marriage because the most change happens.  This stage can bring the most joy and sense of purpose in life even though it is stressful.  When a couple have blood ties to each other through their child(ren) it means they will always be connected, adding another dimension to their relationship.

The first child born, whether he or she lives or dies, changes the couple into a family.  This is significant in the evolution of relationship.  The first child changes the husband and wife into a father and a mother. Becoming a parent changes people in fundamental ways.  It is amazing how a tiny baby can effect so much change!

Both mother and father’s lives are changed by the arrival of the new member of the family.  Usually, mother’s life changes the most.  A lot of the affection and care-giving that had been focused on her husband now goes toward her child(ren).  Having babies and preschoolers is highly demanding of time, energy and money.  Most mothers put their own lives on hold while they have babies and toddlers.  Most mothers want to do this.  Even if a mother continues to work, her priorities shift and she is still most likely to put her infants and toddlers first.  Mother Nature planned it that way for survival of the species.

Father’s life changes too.  A healthy father wants his infant child(ren) to have the attention and love they need. At the same time he has to make do with less attention, love and affection from his wife than he enjoyed before the babies came.  This occurs at a time when he is feeling the stress of more responsibilities at home and challenges in his career.

Many differences, that were either non-issues or mildly troublesome before, now come to the foreground or get worse.  Since standards and values are conveyed to the children through parenting, any differences that are not satisfactorily resolved create stress between the couple.

At this stage, fatigue is a significant factor for one or both parents due to many nighttime disturbances and workload in the home.  If mother has to return to work for financial reasons her stress load is greater.  If she would rather be a home with her baby then the stress is even greater.  Either parent may be too tired and/or too busy to pay attention to the other.  There is much less time and energy left for the relationship.  Having fun is a faded memory and seems impossible with the increased responsibilities, lack of time and/or money.  Each wants comfort and help from the other because they often feel overwhelmed, exhausted and alone.   When they cannot get what they yearn for, each feels deprived and let down.  When couples do not carve out time in their busy lives to be with each other they tend to lose their emotional connection.  Many couples disengage from each other yet maintain a common goal in parenting.  This makes the relationship vulnerable to break-up as the children grow older.  If they do not reorganize well at this stage, each following stage is more difficult to reorganize.  The relationship is more likely to go into crisis in later stages.

On the transition to parenthood, researcher, John Gottman, Ph.D states “While this period hold potential for great joy in a parent’s life, our research shows that shortly after the birth of their child, approximately two-thirds of couples will experience a significant drop in relationship quality, a dramatic increase in conflict and hostility, and an increase in postpartum depression.  These negative changes in the relationship result in compromised parenting and put children at risk for mental and behavioral problems and cognitive delays.”  If addressed, these changes can be reversed.  Dr. Gottman’s team is working on developing workshops to help couples reverse these negative changes.

Couples that reorganize well make the effort to find time for each other even though there are so many demands on their time and energy.  They keep emotionally and physically connected to each other.  They pay attention to each other’s wants and needs.  They integrate their standards and values.  A good working relationship helps them resolve their differences.  Together they identify and achieve individual, couple and family goals.  Couples that feel emotionally and physically connected to each other resolve differences more easily.  Each is able to let go of the small problems.  They are more easily able to handle reorganization of their relationship at later stages.

As their family grew Susan and Bob had so many demands on their time and energy that they could not find time for each other.  When the babies started coming, Susan’s life changed dramatically.  She took maternity leave with each baby and had to readjust to work between babies.  She ran the household.  She organized everyone’s appointments, music lessons, sports, purchasing clothes and other needs of the family.  She coordinated family get-togethers for both sides of the families.  When she wasn’t at work she was working at home.

The demands and expectations on Bob changed dramatically as well.  He felt the weight of the financial pressures – a huge stressor.  His job was demanding.  His career was evolving.  It required a lot of his time and energy.  The attention, love and affection that Susan used to lavish on him now went to the young children.  He wanted his children to have their mother’s love and attention but he felt neglected.  He was often too busy and too tired to make time for her.  She frequently felt overwhelmed and too tired to make time for him.  There were always lots of problems to resolve and decisions to make.  There were very few good times with each other any more.   Each felt unappreciated and unimportant to the other.  Each became resentful and felt lonely.  When each needed the most love and support from the other, each was least able to give it.  They co-parented well but drifted apart as a couple.

Stage 5: First-child-enters-school.

When the first child enters school he or she is exposed to a larger world.  They bring home new ideas.  They have new authority figures.  They meet classmates with different life styles.  They learn ways of being different in the world and they bring these new concepts and experiences back to the family.

If school life is similar to home life a child’s view of the world is consolidated.  But if school life is different, either better or worse, than home life, then the child has to adapt and adjust.

(SIGNIFICANT) Stage 6: Last-child-enters-school.

No more babies or toddlers at home!  Once the last child enters school, mother’s life comes off hold.  She can now think of what she wants to do with her life.  Financial issues are almost always an issue.  Perhaps for financial reasons she must return to work or if she has never quit work she must work to regain, or try to regain, the advancements that she lost.  Perhaps she may want to retrain for a new type of work or career.  Perhaps she wants to figure out a way to work from home.  Time and energy is freed up to think about her own life.  Some couples have another child to postpone this stage.

Jaime and Ralph have come for couples counseling.   Tom, the eldest of their three children, has entered high school and the youngest, Dan, is in the first grade.  This indicates that Jaime and Ralph are struggling to reorganize their relationship at two important developmental stages: a) the eldest-child-reaching-puberty and the youngest-child-entering-school.  Both are important stages yet the youngest-child-entering-school is the most significant stage.  It indicates that Jaime can focus more on herself now that she has no babies left at home.   It also indicates that Ralph may be looking for reconnection with his wife now that she is not so preoccupied with the demands of their very young children.

Ralph enjoys his role as father and family man.  He’s busy with all the children’s activities yet he is lonely.  Now that the children are all in school he is looking for more connection with Jaime.   His complaint is that Jaime has no time for him because she spends a lot of her spare time on the computer, emailing and chatting online. He keeps initiating time with her but she is full of excuses. She does not even seem to want to be in the same room.  Just when he expected they would have more time for each

other, there is even less.

Jaime and Ralph’s wants and needs are changing and each is having difficulty adjusting.  They have lost their emotional connection with each other and have drifted apart.

Unhealthy reorganization involves adapting to change in ways that create distance and hurt in the relationship.  For example, many wives turn to their children and pets to get their emotional needs met when they cannot get love and affection from their husbands.  Unhealthy couples get locked into ways of being with each other that keep the relationship stuck.  One or both partners become emotionally vulnerable to influences outside the relationship.  This often, but not always, leads to breakup.  More often it results in a long unhappy relationship.

Couples that reorganize well consolidate their relationship and move to a new depth of relatedness.  Healthy couples develop a good working relationship so they are able to handle whatever life hands them.  By working through a difficult stage couples can shift how they interact with each other; they let go of ways of being with each other that are problematic and accept new ways of being with each other that bring satisfaction and deeper connectedness.  Overcoming adversity strengthens and deepens the bond between partners.  The increased solidness enables couples to weather the sometimes dark and difficult periods that life hands them. Couples who reorganize well at each stage are less likely to break up.

Problems from the past can be what was said and done that was hurtful as well as what was NOT said and done that should have been said or done.  When relationships change in the present couples can overcome very difficult and painful problems that happened between them in the past.  With new ways of interacting with each other, couples can forgive or, at least, let go of hurtful words and actions from the past. Because the relationship has improved in the present, even though partners may never forget what happened, they can let go of past hurts.  Forgiveness is desirable, but not essential, to improving a relationship.  However, if there is no improvement in the present – that is, the same problematic interactions keep repeating – then the hurts and wounds from the past are brought up again and again.  An improved relationship in the present gives each partner hope for the future.  When the future looks positive, partners will continue to invest themselves in their relationship.

Stage 8:  Last-child-enters-puberty.

No more young children at home. At this stage, one or both partners realize that one day in the near future, there will be no children left at home.  Each looks to the other with questions about the quality of the relationship.  Each one asks him/herself, “How are we doing?” This may happen both consciously or unconsciously, openly or privately.   Many couples work well together when their children are young because they have the shared value that family is important.  But if the couple no longer feels connected with each other their relationship may disintegrate once the children enter adolescence and leave home.  The disintegration then occurs at a time when the adolescents are naturally preparing to separate from the family, creating more tension in every member of the family.  The adolescents may act out due to the tension causing the parents to fight about the children when the problem really is between the couple.  Separation may occur at some point during this time or not until all the children have left home.

A healthy couple will start to refocus on each other and make the changes that they need to make.  They start to spend more time together without the adolescents.  They work together to make their relationship richer so they still want to be together when their young adults are on their own or soon-to-be on their own.

Stage 9: First child leaves home:

The first child leaving home is the beginning of the end for the nuclear family.  It is easier to let the first child leave because there are others still at home.  Healthy families let their children go with support and encouragement.

Stage 10: The last child leaves home:

This stage means the couple is now a couple alone again with independent adult children.  It is often difficult to let the last child go.  Perhaps the last child is not the youngest but a late bloomer.  If the parents are not reorganizing their relationship, they may collude with each other to keep one or more adult children at home, postponing the inevitable.  Developmentally, parents’ task is to let their children go in spite of the fact that the world is a big and scary place.  Children’s developmental task is to go even though the world outside the home is a big and scary place.  Ideally, the separation happens peacefully, but often parents and adolescents have to fight with each other to let go because all are apprehensive about the big and scary world.  Eventually healthy parents accept their children as adults and the adult children mature and come into their own as adults, as individuals, as men/women.  Then they reconnect adult to adult.

Stage 11: Becoming grandparents:

This is the stage of reconnection.    When adult children become parents they want their children to have grandparents.   Healthy grandparents want a connection with their grandchildren and welcome reconnection to their children through the grandchildren.

When Darlynne was 19 she got pregnant.  Darwin, the baby’s father was 20, felt too young to marry.  Darlynne’s parents, particularly her father, a very religious man, was devastated and felt shame.  He refused to have any contact with her.  Darlynne’s mother reluctantly went along with her husband.  Darlynne found support and help in having the baby from Darwin’s parents while he worked and traveled in Australia.  When the baby was three, Darlynne and Darwin reconciled and married.  She quickly got pregnant again.  Once she was married, Darlynne’s parents wanted to reconnect with their daughter and her growing family..  Darlynne, although deeply hurt by her parents rejection of her when she needed them most, wanted her children to know their maternal grandparents.  The families made peace.

Stage 12: Retirement:

Couples may retire at different times or simultaneously.  Healthy couples find ways to be together as well as be on their own and have friends of their own.  Interdependence is extremely important in this stage.

Sophie made a frantic call to a couples counselor.  Her concern – she and her husband of over 30 years were about to retire at the same time and she was afraid that he would smother her when he did not have to go to work anymore.  She feared her marriage would not last.  After several sessions they were able to resolve a core issue that had plagued them since the beginning of their marriage.  This helped them to reorganize their relationship in a whole new way.  As well, their relationships with their adult children became healthier.

Final Stage: One Spouse dies.

Although the relationship/marriage is over the memories endure in the surviving spouse whether the relationship was healthy or not.  The longer the relationship lasts the more spouses become an integral part of each other – for better or worse.

CONCLUSION

When relationships become troubled they rarely disintegrate immediately.  They usually fall apart over months and years, often with several periods of separation and reconciliation.  Even relationships/marriages that remain in tact are not necessarily healthy. Sometimes one spouse may seriously consider ending the relationship but never does.  It is as if he or she has one foot in the relationship and one foot out.  The other partner could end the relationship but does not.  Living this way is stressful for each partner.

There are always factors that stress the relationship – financial issues, drug and alcohol problems, household chores and maintenance, child rearing, illness/accident/death of a child, parents/in-laws, illness of one or both spouses, affairs, too much work, not enough work, too much money, not enough money, etc.

The goal of couples counseling is to facilitate the couple developing a good working relationship so that they can handle whatever life hands them.  The counselor’s role is to help them reorganize their relationship so that it improves.  The counselor identifies the interactive patterns between the couple that are healthy and builds on them.  Couples need to know specifically what is working so they do it more.  The counselor also identifies the interactive patters that are problematic and helps each spouse to make the changes needed.  Each spouse is encouraged to take responsibility for his/her part in the relationship that needs changing.  The counselor works with each spouse to make changes that fit who they are and enhance the relationship.  The couple learns skills and ways of being with each other that work.  Gradually the couple gets to the place where they no longer need the counselor’s help.   An effective couples counselor’s job is to work him or herself out of a ‘job’ with each couple.

Not all relationships can be turned around and rekindled at a new level.  When this happens the counselor’s role is to help each work toward separation/divorce.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CREATING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP:

1: Keep each other a priority.

Make time for each other.  The busier you are the more you need to carve out time for each other.  The time can be brief – 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour.  Take holidays (short and long) together without others – children, relatives or friends.

Support each other.  Be interested in each other’s thoughts, feelings, interests, passions, wants, needs and troubles.  Being interested does not mean you have to take any action or feel responsible.

2: Set goals.

First: set long-term goals for your relationship and for your family.

Second: set short-term goals for your relationship and for your family.

Having long-term goals makes decisions around short-term goals easier.
Short-term goals without an overall larger plan may result in ‘for now’ decision-making that takes your relationship in directions that neither of you want.

3:  Take care of business:  Develop a good working relationship.

Learn how to effectively resolve your problems – sooner rather than later.

Couples who feel resentful toward each other do not want to be affectionate and intimate with each other.  Resolving problems and differences avoids the build up of resentment and increases the amount of fun couples have together.  Couples who laugh and play together are more likely to stay together.

Be aware of each stage of your relationship and do what needs to be done in each stage.            Prepare for the next stage before or when your relationship reaches it.

You can have plans for life but life also has plans for you..

A good working relationship will help you handle well whatever life hands you.

There are many clearly identifiable stages in long-term relationships

Healthy adjustment in each stage makes it easier to reorganize effectively at the next stage.  A lot of heartaches can be avoided by viewing change as opportunity.

Most of the time couples focus on the present moment of their relationship and miss the bigger picture.  They make many little ‘for now’ decisions that lead in a direction that they do not realize, adding up to a large decision that they would never choose.  Understanding that there are many stages in the lifetime of a long-term intimate relationship can help partners prepare for change and avoid relationship breakdown.  Then couples see that change is normal, natural and necessary.  By embracing the changes early in each stage, couples can decrease the length of time their relationship is stressful and avoid some problems altogether.  Knowing the signs ahead of time can help couples prepare for change. They can take charge of the changes instead of responding or reacting to them.

When a couple has a good working relationship they can handle problematic situations well or they will seek resources, such as counseling, financial planners, self help material etc, to guide them.  Working together they collaborate on how to handle positive and negative situations in ways that take the best interests of all couple/family members into consideration.  One partner is not responsible for making the decisions.  The marriage/relationship becomes an entity that each can rely on to find comfort, safety, and joy, as well as, to solve problems.  When couples have a good working relationship and find pleasure and companionship in each other, each partner is less likely to become overly involved in activities, such as work, parenting or hobbies.

Couples that do not have a good working relationship feel alone and burdened by problems that often are difficult or impossible to resolve.  They are less able to comfort each other and give each other joy because the unresolved issues create an invisible barrier between them.  Buried resentment is the biggest killer of sexual desire.  Because each partner is not getting their emotional needs met within the relationship each is more susceptible to depression, health issues and overworking.  They may be either actively looking outside the relationship or be more emotionally available to unsolicited attention from outside the relationship.

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